“I came to this University a refugee and I went home a revolutionary” says new Honorary doctor Winnie Byanyima
20 October 2016
The University of Manchester awarded an honorary degree to the Executive Director of Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyima, as part of its Foundation Day celebrations on Wednesday 19 October.
Winnie, who is also an alumna of the University, used the occasion of the ceremony to give a Foundation Lecture entitled ‘Advancing Women’s Rights in an Unequal World: A personal perspective’, in which she outlined some of the experiences of her unique career in politics and international development.
Ugandan-born Winnie leads Oxfam International, a confederation of 19 organisations working in more than 90 countries, empowering people to create a future that is secure, just, and free from poverty. She led Uganda's first parliamentary women's caucus which championed ground-breaking gender equality provisions in the country's 1995 post-conflict constitution.
A signatory to her country's 1985 peace agreement, Ms Byanyima has helped to broker and support women's participation in political transitions in Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Burundi, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya and other countries emerging from conflict.
She has a BSc in Aeronautical Engineering from Manchester and returned to campus earlier this year to launch the University’s Global Development Institute, Europe’s largest research and teaching institute dedicated to international development.
Winnie explained that despite her undergraduate and masters degrees in engineering, “heart was in political struggles.”
She said: “I came to this University a refugee and I went home a revolutionary. A spark burning inside me for political change. Like many young people, Manchester is where we found the confidence to dream our dreams and go back home and make them come true.”
Winnie Byanyima also officially launched the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester in February this year – a new research institute which is a flagship for the University’s research beacon for addressing global inequalities and which unites the strengths of the of the University’s Institute for Development Policy and Management and the Brooks World Poverty Institute.
Winnie said, “The role of the GDI and its researchers is a very important one. Of course you work on finding policy solutions to questions and to challenging problems in development. But I think more than finding policy solutions it’s so important to do the fundamental research I was talking about in terms of, ‘What is the basis for this growth model? How do we challenge the ideas and assumptions that underpin this model?’
“I am quite convinced that globalisation and the economic model that underpins it is driven by the wrong values – not the values we subscribe to and certainly not the human rights values that are in the universal Human Rights Charter.
“So connecting a human rights based approach to development and anchoring in values is very important and challenging neo liberalism for me is an important role for an institute like the GDI because, for me, it is about challenging the causes of poverty.”
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “I am delighted that at this year’s Foundation Day celebrations we welcomed back an alumna, Ms Winnie Byanyima, to deliver our most prestigious lecture and to award her an honorary doctorate.
“Winnie’s drive to promote the roles of women and work to address global inequalities fully align with the University’s own activities.